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Senate Judiciary panel presses Gonzales for warrantless wiretapping information

[JURIST] Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website], chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), ranking member of the committee, have sent a letter [PDF text; press release] to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking him again to respond to questions about the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program [JURIST news archive] and to disclose documents on the legal basis for it. In their letter Monday, the Senators wrote:

This Committee has made no fewer than eight formal requests over the past 18 months – to the White House, the Attorney General, or other Department of Justice officials – seeking documents and information related to this surveillance program. These requests have sought the Executive Branch legal analysis of this program and documents reflecting its authorization by the President. You have rebuffed all requests for documents and your answers to our questions have been wholly inadequate and, at times, misleading.
The request comes a week after former Deputy Attorney General James Comey [official profile] testified before the committee that the Justice Department was unwilling at first to agree to the program. The Senators asked for a response by June 5, so that the information is available when they review the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text].

Last week, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) called for the resignation [JURIST report] of Gonzales after Comey's testimony regarding an attempt by Gonzales to persuade then Attorney General John Ashcroft [official profile; JURIST news archive] to reauthorize the warrantless wiretapping program while Ashcroft was incapacitated in the hospital, critically ill with pancreatitis [JURIST report]. Ashcroft reminded him that Comey was acting Attorney General [JURIST report] and refused to approve the program. For the next several months, the White House ran the program without Justice Department approval. The Washington Times has more.

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